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July 25, 1978: In Vitro Fertilization Delivers its First Child

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Before giving birth to Louise in 1978, Lesley Brown had suffered years of infertility due to blocked fallopian tubes. Luckily, that all changed when she was the first woman to give birth thanks to in vitro fertilization, or IVF.

A mature egg was removed from one of Brown's ovaries and combined in a laboratory dish with her husband’s sperm to form an embryo. The embryo then was implanted into her uterus a few days later. The healthy baby was delivered shortly before midnight on July 25 by caesarean section and weighed in at five pounds, 12 ounces.

The Browns had a second daughter, Natalie, several years later, also through IVF. In May 1999, Natalie became the first IVF baby to give birth to a child of her own.

Today, IVF is considered a mainstream medical treatment for infertility. In 2018 it was estimated that eight million children had been born worldwide using IVF and other assisted reproduction techniques.

IVF remains expensive and, according to a 2015 study, the odds of a successful pregnancy after one cycle of IVF stand at just 29%. Today, about 1 in 60 newborns are conceived by in vitro fertilization. 

The global in-vitro fertilization market size is expected to reach $37.7 billion by 2027.

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